When we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith (1 Thessalonians 3:1–2, esv).
Have you ever been misunderstood and then found yourself unable to correct the false impression?
Perhaps a look came off as insensitivity toward someone’s feelings when it was actually your own frustration with yourself over a totally unrelated matter. Maybe the tone of voice they interpreted as irritation was actually concern. You might have been embarrassed or feeling insecure, but they internalized it as standoffishness.
Yet by the time you realized what the other person was thinking, they’d become so hurt, angry, or avoidant that they wouldn’t listen to your explanation. They didn’t believe you were telling them the truth. Suddenly, the misunderstanding had become the biggest thing.
Commonly in situations like these, we end up backing away from the problem, weary of the effort involved in trying to set the record straight, mainly just wanting to avoid more conflict. But whenever your actions are communicating something different than your heart—to your child, to your spouse, to a parent or sibling—you need to rush to correct the false impression. You need to do something—even something that costs you—and you need to make sure they know you’re not taking the situation lightly.
Strong bonds in a marriage, family, friendship, or church are not built on weak, casual apologies. “Sorry about that” or “Sorry you got upset” aren’t going to cut it. And wherever hope is kept alive in any relationship, someone is continually sacrificing—willing to suffer or be inconvenienced; doing things they’d rather not do in order to correct any misunderstanding.
As we learn in 1 Thessalonians, the apostle Paul had found himself separated from friends through circumstances beyond his control. The chance that they could misunderstand his reasons for needing to leave abruptly was high. Yet instead of just figuring they’d get over it—being more worried about his own needs and getting on with surrounding himself with people strategic to his mission—Paul sent one of his leading ministry partners to communicate his heart to them. He gave up what he needed so they could get what they needed.
That’s what brings hope back into the picture again, for all of us. That’s what makes healing happen in a hurry.
Which of your strained relationships would be on the path to restoration if instead of holding on to what you wanted and expected, you bypassed what came easily and did what was hard? What if you rearranged your whole schedule for Friday afternoon, just to spend time with them? Maybe you need to get rid of some supplies for a hobby that’s become a point of contention, or make a phone call you know could be awkward. Whatever you do, you want them to know you value them more than you value your own comfort—that you’d do anything and make any sacrifice to clear the air and make amends.
Many experiences of heartache, strife, and offense never really needed to happen and could be stamped out in the course of one evening, if only someone would take the first step—making the kind of personal sacrifice that would start the dismantling of a misunderstanding.
Father, You went to the farthest extremes to communicate Your heart toward me when You sacrificed Your Son for my rebellion and sin. You went beyond what anyone could have expected of You, to ensure we understood Your true intentions and heart toward us. Help me model Your example by being willing to suffer and sacrifice to mend any kind of breakage in my relationships with others. Use me to heal and restore, at whatever cost to myself. In Jesus’ worthy name, amen.